By EMMA-LOUISE JOHNSON
A few weeks ago one of my nearest and dearest dropped the C bomb: “I’ve got cancer.”
Before I knew it, my gorgeous girlfriend had relocated her newly established New York lifestyle back to Sydney and had begun chemotherapy. All at the ripe old age of 25.
Even though we both live in separate countries, we visit each other regularly and talk most days. During her last few visits she had mentioned having some pain in her neck and arm.
I didn’t hear much more about this until it had escalated to a point where she wasn’t sleeping properly. She took herself (on gut instinct) to have a scan. The pain she was experiencing was in fact a tumor pressing on a nerve ending. There weren’t any other symptoms.
The journey from “I have a pain in my neck” to “you have cancer”, was short and far from sweet. Before I could blink she had endured her first round of chemo and was gearing up for much more to come. Her daily routine sounded more like that of a pin cushion in a Bangkok tailor rather than of a beautiful, successful, young woman enjoying life overseas.
Working for a cancer-related organisation, I write public education articles on the subject all day long. I can rattle off statistics like; “26,000 people are diagnosed with cancer in Hong Kong every year.” I can tell you that the most common form of cancer in women is breast cancer with approximately 8 people diagnosed every day.
But what I couldn’t tell you before is how it actually feels to have someone you love so much diagnosed with something so cruel and unforgiving. It’s a strange and difficult place to be in, trying to answer questions like ‘why her’ when there is absolutely no rhyme or reason.
It’s tough when the only thing that doesn’t discriminate is actually evil, sneaky and unwelcome. It feels similar to a 500kg weight sitting on your chest, pinning down your arms and legs while you watch a train come screaming towards you. You feel helpless.
You find yourself in a constant state of moaning “It’s not fair” but your whingeing invariably now gets you nowhere. She is still having chemo. She is still going to be tested, tired and feeling unwell.
Her diary is still going to be full of trips to the hospital, injections to promote white blood cells that cause her body to ache like an old woman, nutrition facts and figures and diet dos and don’ts, alternative therapies, complementary therapies, second opinions, head scarves and hats. For a 25 year old model living her life at Ferrari speed, this is hard to swallow.
However, on a day to day basis she fronts up to the party with the same outlook on life as she did before, with the same tenacity and resolve that would make any Taurus weak at the knees. Her motivation and her ability to look past this moment, to life beyond the present is an addictive show to watch.